Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Serial Killers*

The Times talks about how the TV networks -- all eager to copy the success Fox has had with "24" -- jumped on the extended one-story-arc bandwagon in the 2006-07 season.

With predictable results:
Each of the five major broadcast networks has already canceled one new serial drama that it introduced last fall with blaring publicity and endlessly replayed promotional snippets. Come and gone in a few short weeks were several interchangeable series featuring an unexpected crime and plenty of shoot-’em-up violence: “Smith” on CBS, “Runaway” on CW, “Kidnapped” on NBC, “Vanished” on Fox and “Day Break” on ABC.
Yep, nearly all the serial shows have been canceled -- including my personal favorite, "Vanished" (not to be confused with either NBC's "Kidnapped" or the CW's "Runaway") because of low ratings. Want to figure out what happened in the central mystery's story arcs? Good luck.

This creates a frustrating set of circumstances. Viewers (even a low-rated show can still have an audience of several million people) feel betrayed because they have been roped in and asked to commit to a 23 week regular "appointment."

Only to discover that the commitment is one-sided. A few brief weeks later, the shows are off the air.

Some of the shows -- and their resolutions -- exist online at the network's web-site -- and they are often not usually easy to find.

I do give NBC some props for this. Even though certain shows are canceled, they do keep the greatest treasury of episodes up on the web of any of the four networks (including full seasons of the still-live-and-kicking, "30 Rock", "Heroes", "Friday Night Lights").

By the way, one show that was not a one-story season-long arc but was canceled nonetheless was Fox's "Justice." Too bad, good ensemble cast -- led by Victor Garber, late of "Alias.")
Unfortunately it's not easy these days to make defense attorneys attractive (last year, ABC had on a show modeled after The Innocence Project, which frees wrongly-convicted violent felons; it lasted for 13 episodes).

"Law and Order" has replaced "Perry Mason" as the preferred trial show standard. Evidently, the public wants to see defendants found guilty -- rather than be told that the "wrong person" is on trial.

Which may say something about the world in which we live.

Yes, I know: I watch too much television.

No, I don't think it keeps me from being productive in other areas. And no, it doesn't needlessly distract me from...uh, hmmm...did you know it's only four days until the new season of "24"?

Um, what was I saying?

UPDATE: Regular Commenter Bill Barker took exception with my statement that "the public wants to see defendants found guilty rather than be told the 'wrong person' is on trial."

Bill said, "I'd say it's much more accurate to write, "The public wants to see GUILTY people found GUILTY and INNOCENT people found INNOCENT."

I don't disagree with that statement: No one wants innocent people to be found guilty. However, in the above, I was noting the proliferation of police-and-prosecution shows while newer defense-attorney shows have been failing. It wasn't always this way: While cop shows have long been the rage, invariably when the action moved into the courtroom, TV has tended to focus on the defense: Perry Mason, Matlock and L.A. Law are three of the most notable.

I probably should have said that, "It might say something about our times that the public seems more interested in seeing the prosecution side of the legal system than the defense side." (ABC's Boston Legal -- a spin-off of The Practice -- is the notable exception as a legal drama centered on the law firm).

It is interesting that one of the successful new shows of the current season -- Shark -- stars James Woods as a defense attorney who switches sides and goes to work for the L.A. district attorney. That conscious artistic decision suggests the creators may be keying into a cultural shift in the audience.

*Damn! I'm on a pun-header roll today.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by AddThis Social Bookmark Button
Technorati search
Search Now:
Amazon Logo
  •  RSS
  • Add to My AOL
  • Powered by FeedBurner
  • Add to Google Reader or Homepage
  • Subscribe in Bloglines
  • Share on Facebook